Our increasingly connected world is dominated by mobile apps. We use these apps for everything from waking up in the morning to ordering food. They have become so critical to our daily lives that when they malfunction, they can disrupt our entire routine. Depending on the nature of the malfunction, the disruption can even be harmful. Sometimes, even when the app is used as intended, people get hurt. The nature of apps makes it legally challenging at times to determine liability and what duties and obligations fall upon the creators of apps.
Injuries in App Usage
Two and a half years ago, the application Pokemon Go was released. This app encouraged users to track down digitally generated creatures in an augmented reality environment. Unfortunately, the locations tended to bring users onto private property in pursuit of rare breeds, and sometimes even incentivize rushing out into oncoming traffic. The interactive nature of these apps leads one to wonder at the duties the app makers have to warn users against rash action.
More recently, a motor-scooter company referred to as “Lime” has come under fire for providing misleading information about the use of its motor scooters. The company provides rental scooters to users – allowing them to take the scooter from many various locations around their hometown and use them in place of other transportation options. They warn users to not use them on sidewalks – but in Fort Lauderdale such use is legal.
This confusion over the lawful use led to several users getting hit by cars while operating the scooters. The question of legal liability for the company has been raised as a consequence – if a person is misinformed by an app over proper use due to local law, and that confusion leads to injury (even if the injury was caused by a third party), is the app legally liable?
What Warnings Are Apps Required to Provide?
Many apps give warnings to customers regarding their use. These warnings include simple instructions on how to use and even alerts such as ‘do not use while driving.’ There have been pushes by consumer advocacy groups to require apps to offer more warnings, though poorly timed notifications might distract users while they’re driving.
In general, though, the onus remains largely on the user to ignore distractions and not allow themselves to be exposed to dangerous situations while making use of an app.
So What is the Law?
The law really depends on the situation, as in almost every case. Right now, the main focus of the law is on medical apps that provide health advice and guidance. This is because these apps have a clear potential to cause harm and misleading or inaccurate information could directly cause injury and death. There is also substantial case law and statutes regulating medical devices. However, it is expected that as mobile apps become more prevalent, so will lawsuits over the distractions that these apps create for their users.
If you’ve been injured as a result of a distracting or misleading mobile app, your best bet is to get in touch with a qualified personal injury attorney for a consultation on your case. If the circumstances of your particular injury hold the app maker legally liable, then your attorney can help you recover damages you deserve.